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If you thought the agency cap was radical – think again, NHS leaders are cutting through years of received wisdom to tackle the agency spend problem in some surprising ways

The world of temporary staffing is undergoing a revolution.  Framework agreements, the agency cap and restrictions on where agency workers can work, although effective have failed to meaningfully shift the balance of power away from agencies to healthcare providers. 

Survey after survey has shown that the new generations of workers value flexibility, choice, learning experiences and work-life-balance above pay.

On the face of it, there is no better place than the NHS to deliver on these needs.  So why are almost half of the agency Nurses actually NHS employees?

Why do 39% of NHS doctors do Locum shifts through agencies?

The truth is, although the NHS should be able to offer unrivalled learning experiences, choice and flexibility it seems ill-equipped to do so.  When combined with better pay, agencies currently hold all the cards.

Now, the drive for Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) has empowered a cohort of leaders to think differently about organising and running the temporary workforce.  I’ve read most of the plans that have either been published or leaked and attended many seminars and presentations from STP leaders and other naturally forming clusters of Trusts.  A growing number of leaders are devising workforce plans that aim to trigger a seismic shift in the balance power away from agencies – by outsmarting them.

The first theme to emerge is system wide thinking – their plans view the STP workforce as a single entity rather than a collection of competing trusts.  This shift in attitude has allowed leaders to recognise that the art of the possible has changed and new staffing models unbounded by organisations can emerge. 


The second theme is that clusters want to shift from the old agency model to a better self-sourcing model.  Whilst NHSI is exhorting the NHS to outsource the problem to Managed Service Providers, many are endeavouring to fix and grow their own internal banks.  The need to increase the size and effectiveness of banks has been highlighted by Lord Carter and the DH Workforce Strategy.

Next, people have realised that attracting staff from agencies to internal banks requires a shift in the temporary worker ‘experience’.  There is no point in recruiting lots of staff if you are unable to retain them.

Finally, clusters are embracing on-demand staffing models.  Technology developments in cloud, mobile and apps have made this possible.   It’s this that allowed Allocate to develop the revolutionary CloudStaff service – a way of sharing staff through an on-line regional bank. With this extended bank of available staff, Trusts can minimise the need for agency staff, improve quality and safety, and significantly reduce agency spend.  Also, by using Allocate Me, the companion mobile app – the experience of the worker is dramatically enhanced – now booking a shift is as easy as booking an Uber.

What strategies do you think will shift the power away from agencies? Comment below

Click her for more information on CloudStaff 

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